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Seeking a Port in the WMD Storm: Counterproliferation Progress, Shortfalls and the Way Ahead

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Like a ship running from a hurricane at sea, the United States Government is struggling to reach a safe port and shelter from a threatening WMD storm. In an era where some adversaries are perhaps on the cusp of achieving the capabilities to destroy forward deployed American military forces with nuclear weapons e.g., in a future conflict with North Korea or to kill thousands of Americans in our cities with aerosolized biological weapons e.g., if Al Qaeda were to achieve the capability, the United States and its allies are racing to create effective chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear CBRN countermeasures. Serious gaps remain, however, and extreme vulnerabilities persist even a decade after Secretary Les Aspin announced the beginning of the Department of Defense DoD Counterproliferation Initiative CPI. Much has been done since the CPI was launched in 1993, but much still must be accomplished before the United States can confidently either deter all adversaries from CBRN attacks or, at least, effectively neutralize any such attacks by a combination of effective counterforce targeting, active defenses, passive defenses, or the ability to recover through superb consequence management actions. Much progress has been made in the decade since Secretary Aspin and his deputy, Dr. Ashton Carter, launched the DoD Counterproliferation Initiative. However, progress to date does not equate to success. Many additional steps must be taken before the United States and its allies can claim reasonable levels of preparedness in the effort to halt, thin out, manage, rollback, or counter the weapons of mass destruction threats posed by adversary states and groups. To evaluate the ideal and compare it to the present counterproliferation program, and identify the progress and shortfalls of the counterproliferation program, it is useful to look at the various elements where the Department of Defense is the lead agency before offering an overall assessment.

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  • Chemical, Biological and Radiological Warfare
  • Nuclear Warfare

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